During my four years at UF, I’ve learned that if you find a passion, learn how to fail and surround yourself with the best people, you will set yourself up for an unforgettable college journey that will set you up for success in life.
When I got to UF, I was passionate about political science — or so I thought. I was in denial that the lack of any numbers in my class bothered me, but I still enjoyed talking about political issues, so I switched to economics. I have tried to be passionate about many subjects that I’ve merely liked, but you can’t fake it to yourself forever.
There is a giant gap between passion and drive, and when I realized that drive was what was getting me through most of my higher-level math classes on the way to graduate school, I stopped and changed course even though I had no idea which way to go. After walking around in Library West and picking out interesting books from the shelves, I discovered that I was seriously in love with investing and personal finance. If you aren’t reading articles from your major just for fun and for the pure enjoyment of learning more, you are in the wrong major and should change now.
Please do not waste time pretending that biology is your long-lost love or that you were meant to write journal articles because that’s what successful people do. Find what you like to learn about, and don’t settle for anything less.
Failure has been a major theme in my UF career. We need to stop thinking about failure as a terrible thing. Failure can be productive: You either overcome it or redirect your course. In high school, I did really well because it was a protected and structured world with controllable variables and predictable outcomes. All of a sudden, I was at a university with 50,000 people and had no one to compete against but myself. After going through a half-dozen career paths in my head, I finally found a great job at an investment company. A major reason why I finally found something exciting is that I applied for countless scholarships, internships, grad programs and funded travel that rejected me. Please don’t be afraid of rejection. It’s not fun to fail, but in the real world you will have plenty of successes and failures; having a high volume of rejections just means you are spinning the wheels of thought and opening yourself up to lots of great opportunities. Please apply for that program or job you are thinking about right now.
You should also shoot to surround yourself with people who are honest, wholesome and smart. If you look for the group that will go to Grog with you every night drinking, you will leave UF with little to talk about except stories about alcohol. There’s a lot to be said for having a great time with friends and having some beers, but don’t let the worst parts of UF’s culture consume you. When you party, if you’re still able to talk about something from class or an interesting story in the news, you’ve found a great group of people that are actually interested in you. The top students here are every bit as good as those anywhere in the country, so choose wisely.
I am so proud that I will be able to say very soon that I’m a graduate of UF. I’ve been sheltered from the harsh realities of the world for the past four years and am about to roll into full gear. I’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime by being able to graduate with an awesome education from inside and outside the classroom.
Cherish your time at UF. Don’t be afraid to search for what keeps you up late at night thinking, and don’t worry about failing a bunch on the way there. With good people by your side, you’ll go far.
Travis Hornsby is a statistics and economics senior at UF. His column appears on Mondays.